TIKRIT, Iraq – More than 100 U.S. troops stormed homes in Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit (search) early Monday, searching for Saddam loyalists accused of financing or coordinating attacks on American soldiers. Four wanted men were arrested, the military said.
Acting on tips from Iraqis detained in previous raids as well as intelligence sources, the troops raided the houses in downtown Tikrit almost simultaneously, catching the men asleep.
The bloodless raid involved three companies from the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division (search) in Humvees, Bradley fighting vehicles and 5-ton trucks.
"All those targeted were involved in attacks on coalition forces and government officials," said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, 1st Battalion commander. "The message we communicate is if you involve in this type of activity, we will hunt you down or we will kill you."
The raid targeted six men suspected of financing attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces in and around Tikrit, the hotbed of support for Saddam. At least two of them were not in their homes, said Col. James Hickey, commander of the 4th Infantry's 1st Brigade.
The rest included cell leaders of Saddam Fedayeen (search) guerrillas, who have fired rocket-propelled grenades on American patrols and rigged the roads of Tikrit with homemade bombs that have killed or wounded dozens of soldiers, U.S. military officials said.
Their identities were not disclosed, in line with military rules.
In the first house that was raided, the troops knocked down the front-yard door with a metal ram as the operation began at 3 a.m. Other soldiers used ladders to climb the walls, fanning out across the compound. The occupants were rounded up in the kitchen and ordered to kneel down while the house was searched. Men were separated from women and taken out in the street, where they were questioned to confirm their identity.
One of those wanted identified himself and was taken into custody. The man, in his early 20s, shivered on the morning breeze in his underpants and T-shirt, and denied any involvement in guerrilla attacks.
"We don't have any weapons. We only have one weapon for the house," he said.
In another house nearby, close to Tikrit's notorious "RPG Alley," where guerrillas fire on Americans almost every night, U.S. troops found a brother of another wanted man. Also in the house was an elderly man U.S. troops had looked for previously in connection with attacks. Russell called him a "bonus" in the raid.
The brother agreed to cooperate in exchange for being set free, and led the troops to another house where his brother was found and detained.
"We got some late breaking information, and we decided to act very quickly," Russell said. "Once we get on an objective, if we get additional information, we will follow on it."
The detainees were loaded on a truck, blindfolded and with their hands tied with plastic zipcuffs.
In the distance, suspected guerrillas fired mortar rounds, a regular occurrence in Tikrit. Most of them hit empty fields close to U.S. positions, and rarely cause damage or injuries.
On Sunday, U.S. troops in the town shot and killed two Iraqis who opened fire on one of the Army observation posts. The attackers then escaped jumping roof to roof, but were chased down by soldiers with the help of residents who gave away their hideout, Luke said.